If you read Part 1 of our blog series about changing traffic laws in Ontario, you’re probably wondering how significant these changes are going to be! This post will cover all the main alterations in Ontario’s driving laws, which include steeper fines and more demerit points for committing driving offenes, and new additions to the law regarding pedestrians and cyclists. The changes listed below are going to be implemented over the next few months, so you may as well keep them in mind starting now!
For Distracted Driving:
Distracted driving includes operating any hand-held devices while driving, or viewing display screens unrelated to your driving. Hand-held devices include cell phones, iPods, GPS and MP3 players, smart phones, laptops, and DVD players. For exemptions from the distracted driving law, see our previous post. Distracted driving is not just a technological problem; trying to accomplish any task while driving means that the driver is not paying attention to the road.
Currently, you can be charged between $60 and $500 for distracted driving offences, but fines are due to jump to a minimum $300 and maximum $1,000 charge. Additionally, three demerit points are given out if you are convicted of a distracted driving offence. Distracted driving has also been added to the list of novice driver conditions, which are applicable to drivers with a class G1 or G2 license (or an M1 or M2 license).
For Drunk Driving:
Drunk driving penalties will remain similar to current penalties, but repeat offenders may have to complete an alcohol education program, complete with treatment and monitoring.
For Encounters with Pedestrians and Cyclists
Drivers must allow pedestrians to completely cross the road at school and pedestrian crossings before moving forward (currently, you only have to wait until the pedestrian crosses your half of the road). Cyclists are allowed to use paved shoulders on unrestricted highways, and drivers must keep a minimum distance of one metre between them and the cyclist when passing. For “dooring” a cyclist (which is opening your car door when a cyclist is approaching, causing them to crash into it), a driver can currently be charged between $60 and $500. This has been increased to $300 minimum and $1,000 maximum, as well as a penalty of three demerit points. Take a look in your mirror before opening your car door!
For Cyclists in Traffic:
Fines have increased for cyclists who fail to use required bike lights and reflective equipment; it used to be a maximum charge of $20, but is has increased to a fine between $60 and $500 depending on the severity. Make sure that drivers and pedestrians can see you when you are riding at night time and avoid these fines! Cyclists are allowed to use flashing red lights as a safety feature.
In Part 3, we will provide some useful tips on how to avoid being a distracted driver.